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ENGLAND     DIARY 8   2016   
 

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 Diary 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10
 

                                WALES

Back from Wales, I now drive through the central England.

8/6 It is a misty morning, and despite the landscape is fantastic, the camera don't get it through the mist. I make a stop in the cosy village of Much Wenlock. Here are a lot of real old houses, both sandstone and timber framed. Many have flowers in front of them, despite their front garden is less than a meter.
From what could be the old rampant, there is a great view over the slate roofs. Several loops around the centre give many nice motives, despite the sun is not cooperating. The many cafes are tempting, but I head on towards Iron Bridge Gorge.

Just before I reach the Iron Bridge town, four enormous cooling towers emerges behind some tiny, old buildings. That calls for a picture, but it is hard to get the difference in size into the frame. The car is ditched in front of an Inn, and out of courtesy, I order a pot of tea. The sun have turned up, and it is so nice to sit outside.
Just around the corner, Iron Bridge turns out to be a real pictureous village. I start buying dinner for later, then a stroll from the old remise along the river. Nice old houses along one side, the forest to the other.
The town owe its name to the 1779 cast iron bridge, crossing the gorge. It is a robust, but at the same time elegant construction, which today is only for pedestrians. The old toll house list the prices, and despite they don't collect any more, the town make good money on the tourists - mainly from other parts of England.
On the other side of the river, Benthall Edge Woodlands is found. A long walk up the steep and huge hill with forest, reveals several interesting ferns and two species of terrestrial orchids, one parasitic.
From the top, there are some good views to the town, way down in the gorge, but the mist is still here. The trail should lead to a quarry, but I turn around just before - I lean when I return to the map below.
Back in town, I enjoy the sun along with a pot of tea and a panini, sitting at the bridge. That would have worked for a long time, but I better get going.

Dudmaston is 915 years old, build by a Norman knight; Robert de Belleme - which I think means he was a Dane. The year after he build it, he lost it to Henry I. Besides from the house, here should be a sweeping garden. Well, disappointment might cover it. The garden is all right, but  I get a distinct feeling off, it have had been so much more.
The house is in red bricks, and I doubt any dates that fare back, although some rooms do look old. The outside look like 200 years at best. The family still lives here, and most of the house which can be seen, are light rooms with art, and photo is propitiated.
If I had known all this, I have had another pot of tea at Iron Bridge.

That leave time for the Holy Austin Rock Houses, which are caves. Some families have carved out their home into the sandstone ridge, and lived here until 1960. Unfortunately, they closes at four, an hour earlier than other National Trust sites, and it is just passed.
I have not seen a camp since this morning, but I hope one will turn up soon. Then I can turn back, and see the caves in the morning.
The GPS is set to Lichfield Cathedral, and I chose the bigger roads, hoping for a camp.
That is fare from what I get. Instead, I get to see Birmingham from one end to the other. And that is a big city! On top of that, it is rush-hour, and congestion is all over. It soon start to drizzle, and that turns into a massive rain.
After a hour, the GPS announces M5 T-O-L-L road. It is surely that; around two kilometres, 5,50 pound. Only cash, no returns. And no chance I find a sign to a camp-site here. A revision of the plan means Lichfield Cathedral in no longer interesting. Not without a camp and in the heavy rain.
Next sight should be Calke Abbey, and after a bit of fumbling around, I find it - after they have closed. But here were no camps along the road. I asked a few times, but no one have any ideas. It is a immense long driveway the abbey have, and I'm all alone.
I eat my dinner and start working. Someone has been so nice, they haven't locked the toilets, thank you. A short stroll along the lake, and them back to work. No hurry to get to bed; the abbey will not open before ten.

9/6 I start the day with a two hour walk around the lake and then the rest of the park of Calke Abbey Garden and House. Further on, the large Staunton Harold Reservoir begins. Here are lots of birds, and I get close to some woodpeckers. A few insects are still exposed from the cold night, and it is still rather chill.
Here are many different trees, but the real old oaks are the most interesting. Besides from that, here are not that many interesting plants. On the way back, I pass the abbey's farm, and here are a lot of sheep on the huge fields with a few old trees.
Before they open, I get a peek into the stables. It is a large stable complex, and not restored in any way. Actually, the entire estate is left just like when the NT took over. They have only done necessary repairs to secure the buildings - and the guests. But they spend 4,500,000 pound just doing that! The last person who lived here, left everything, and he had been living here for quite some time, alone. It add a eerie feeling to it all. Once so magnificent, now kind of decayed.
Here are old wagons, tools, the stables and a lot of what look like a natural history museum, tossed into small rooms.
As the garden opens, I start exploring. The house is a bit of a ruin, and I feared the garden would be the same. The huge area in front of the house is just a lawn, and in the fare end, the remains of a grotto is found. If that is all, I'm not going to sit around for additional two hours, waiting for the house to open! I follow a path, passing some real tall flowering bulbs, I have never seen before. And there are hundreds. Next to then, the deer is coming up to the chestnut trees to eat the flowers.
Then I find the orchard and kitchen garden. Both look fine, and the walls surrounding them are waste. They are fare from restored in their full size, which have been several hectares. The orangery and the other greenhouses have been restored, and it all look so nice in the sun. The old heating systems are still present, but they are no longer fired with logs.
A small doorway turns out to be a real long tunnel. It was for the gardener to use, bringing vegetables to the kitchen so the upper-class didn't bump into them, when they too a stroll in the garden.
The "pretty garden" is not that big, but well laid out. Here are palms and a lot of flowering plants, bulbs, vines and trees.

A few rooms open before the rest, and one of the guards tells me a lot about the house. I learn that is have never been a abbey, one of the former owners just thought that sounded more posh than "House" or "Hall". Somewhere deep down, remains of ancient buildings can still be found under the red brick walls. But it was rebuild to look great around 250 years ago.
The family who have been living here for more than 400 years, have been into science and nature. One came up with the system mummies a everything else ancient Egyptian, are filed and sorted after. The first hall is dominated by the heads of old longhorn bulls. They are the ones who won prices, when they lives. The long horns tend to bend down, and they are truly long. I can't figure how some of them actually eat?
Here are glass cupboards with stuffed birds and mammals everywhere. Others have minerals, fossils, shells and odd stuff in general. Behind them are the old fireplaces, the ancient paintings and everything else, one find in these masons. The last owners have truly been obsessed with nature. Especially birds and mammals with white or other abnormal colouring are over-represented.
Despite I feel I don't have the time, I just got to stay here, and have a look at the rest of the house, when it opens. A short tea brake, and I see the upper floors. They have suffered more form the water through time, but it is clearly rich peoples home. The carvings on the panels, the paintings, the furniture, the sealing and the share size of the rooms.
One thing, which there after all were no room for, was the bed draping, given by the queen for the wedding in 1734. Chinese masterpiece, which must have taken generations to complete. Just a detail like the half centimetre wide stems on some trees have knots. They are actually made of butterflies wings and peacock feathers, woven into the silk. As they had no bedroom big enough, it remained in the polished wooden boxes till someone stubbed over it, a few years ago.
The family have never been good at throwing out anything, and some rooms are just full of slightly damaged stuff. And some are just full of stuff. Must be nice just to start piling stuff up in yet another wing of the house with four stories.
The kitchen look Victorian, but it was in use until 1920. Another long tunnel was for the staff to use, hiding them in the front lawn and yard, when they collected beer and bred from the brewery and bakery in the stable area. It is half pass two, before I drag my self out of this amassing house - or museum.

Again, the huge cooling towers of a power-plant dominates the horizon. Then the narrow house boats on a canal, but no where to park. Or time. The landscape is almost flat, and so green. When I finally reach Biddulph Grange Garden, it have passed four, and that leave not much time.
The family still live in the huge house, but they share their beautiful garden. Again, it is a gathering of different styles, and they are so well maintained. The lake with the flowering bushes around, the Egyptian temple, the geometric bushes, a arboretum, a tunnel that look like a grotto, the endless alleys and the more raw nature are all here. Even orchids, growing around the lake, and lots of them.
I have asked several of the staff for a camp-site, but it is first when a bright guy at the shop, and he look it op on his computer, I get a hint.
It turns out to be across several rather large cities, which are suffering for the afternoon traffic. It leave me time to re-think my plan. I thought I was going north, then east. The campsite is actually north-east, and due to earlier mistakes, I only have one thing to see up north. If I had realised that, I would have gone east right now. But the promises of a shower make me continue. And Pavilion Gardens might be worth it after all.

When I finally reach the camp, there is no one in the reception/home. I try to find the lawn, and it is a long drive. Then there are quite some campers and a new toilet building. I get the code from a nice lady, and get the deserved shower - before I might be kicked out.
A man on a lawn mower send me back to his daughter, who let me stay on another lawn. When I get there, it start to rain gently, and I'm glad I don't depend on a tent. I begin work with implanting the NT's interesting sights  between Cambridge and Norwich, an area I had nothing in before. Then the usual work, and despite I work to after midnight, the rain keep falling gentle on the roof.

10/6 Despite the earlier test, there is no hot water this morning. And none to complain to either. I'm not waiting, and head straight towards Peak District National Park. It is a park, but here are farms, big roads and even towns around.
I got a feeling of, this is a great area, but unfortunately, it is covered in mist. I stop and try to make a few photos. At the peak, I head out for a longer walk. I find a bit of interesting plants, but the main advent is the completely soaked shoos. I try the Cat & Fiddle Inn, but it is apparently closed until further notes.
The next village pub have four signs saying "Open" - but it is defiantly closed.
I set the GPS for the next site, the oldest pub in England - hoping they are open. The GPS say 265 kilometres, and that do indicate something is wrong; I'm not supposed to reach London now. Accordantly to my notes, it should be near Nottingham.
I just head on towards Pavilion Gardens in Buxton then. A real disappointment. It is merely a public park with a few beds, but they do have greenhouses. I wait for them to open, but that is delayed by a fire drill. After that, none turn up, and I enter by the door the fire-chief left open. Nothing here you couldn't buy at any florist in town. Well, except the whiteflies, which seem to have taken over.

As I continue, the real charming village of Cromford make me stop. It seems to be founded around the millpond, long time ago. The big Greyhound Inn have internet and tea, but only the tea works. They tell me, the Green Cafe have. I take my business to them, and get a mug of tea, a strange tasting sandwich and then they tell me, they have no internet. Not really my day!
Well, the next site is Wollaton Hall Garden, and that can't go wrong, right? Once again, it is a long drive, and the countryside is not that interesting anyway, and here are bigger roads like M1, M5 and M6. Unfortunately, it seems like rush-hour is around noon?
The GPS leads me to a golf curse, and when I look Wollaton Hall Garden up in my new guidebook, the address do not include a zip-code, and here are four Derby Roads in Nottingham. On top of that, it starts to rain.

Well, the next sight is a castle, which I'm sure I can find: That won't fail! Warwick finally turn op, and it is a huge, old town. Here are many real old houses, scattered in-between newer. I find the car-park, and read the sign; 6 pound token to get out. It better be a great castle! It is a real long walk to the entrance, which is teaming with 100s of five year old kids, mainly out of control. The entrance fee is 25 pound, and additional five, if I want to experience the dungeons - there is a scary 45 minutes tour. I finally get it: They have turned this ancient castle into a theme park!
Considering I just spend six pound on parking, I figure I do a walk in the town. Didn't bring the computer, and too long back to get it. I fail to find the real cosy part of town, and head on to Stonelight Abbey. That must be cosy, right?

The rush-hour is actually worse, and they have changed the M5/M1 intersection, and after five kilometres of queue one way, I end get the wrong way out, and have to drive back in the queue, on the other side. The address I have, leads to a closed gate. I drive around the area, but see nothing like an abbey. Well, on to next site, which I might reach before they close.

On the way, I spot a sign for Stonelight Abbey, and follow it. I end in the same area I just was, and kind of drive around in a big circle, following the  signs for 15-20 kilometres. Could they have closed the abbey, and removed the last sign?
Well, the GPS is set for the next site, and I keep an eye out for a nice pub or inn with internet, a campsite and a gasoline station. One pub have no internet. The next have, but too slow to be at any use. One of the guests know of a camp-site, and actually quite close. I find it easily, but it is real expensive. Well, anything else have failed today, and I have to live with it.
I don't dear to continue; either will the car brake down, or the police will get an unhealthy interest in me. The rain is on and off, and I have no problem stating I actually have a tent, when I'm asked.
For once, here are a restaurant - in a big tent, but popular. Here are even a decent internet. And with the rain and thunder, kind of cosy in the big tent. Despite the real lousy day, one slideshow with the general photos from the Central England can be made. Considered the few pictures, there are quite some time to look for campsites for the last days, and I succeed to find some scattered around where I plan to go.

11/6 The day start grey, and the forecast for Cambridge is rain symbols for most of the coming fourteen days - the only exceptions are the days with thunder too. Lyveden with its "mysterious garden" is close bye, and I have a hour and a half, to explore the nature around, before they open, when I get there. The sun try to get thought the mist, and it is nicely warm.
The landscape is real close to the Danish, and I don't find a single new plant. I do the long trail into the Lyveden, and start seeing the garden (I get in free anyway, as I'm a member of the National Trust). Here are some real long ponds. moulding the orchard. On the other side, two snail-formed hills form another vied landscape folly. 
Then I reach the ruin of a big, old house. The walls seems to be in pretty good shape, the rest is gone. I get to the entrance, and accordantly to the map, I have seen all the "mysterious" follies. No reason to sit around, waiting for them to open. I get close to a pair of hares on the way out. Huge animals compared to the usual rabbits.

Next on the list is Cambridge University Botanical Garden. It is Saturday, and I find a spot for the car, just around the corner. The garden is not that big, and the arboretum take up quite some room, along with other "wild" areas. Never the less, they have 8.000 species on the sixteen hectares, and they are a real beauty.
Here are classic collections, sorted after family, experimental beds, climatic areas and other divisions. I see the school-, the woodland-, the stream-, the terrace- with New Zealand plants, the bog-, the rock-, the dry-, the rose-, the fern-, the autumn-, the winter- and the scented gardens. Then there are the systematic beds, the new and the old pinetum, the Mediterranean beds, British wild plants, the herbaceous beds and the chronological beds.
The water garden is a true beauty. I think one of the great features is that the water sit real high, and you can access the brinks in many areas. Of cause, the flowers have to be great too, and they are indeed. The rock beds next to the large pond are another gem, with a huge array of plants on huge limestone boulders.
A few areas seems like they once was Victorian or formal gardens, but they are more romanticised now. The sun is still not up to the task, and rain is promised for the afternoon.
After that, there are the glasshouses with each their climate. Some are made of oak-frame and cast iron. All are filled with the right plants, and in prime condition - for most at least. I especially admire their Alpine house. The centre raised bed is astonishing. Just in the hallway, they have a thriving and flowering Agpetes serpens and several flowering orchids. In one of the seven houses a Strongylodon macrobotrys is flowering with the most occult coloured flowers. And next to it, a Thunbergia mysorensis are showing off big time. The orchids try to catch up, but they fails. Only the cacti collection is suffering. I think they actually get too little water, or the soil is way of. Besides from that, the 20 gardeners are doing a real good job here. 
I do a few more loops in the garden, and find new corners, I have missed earlier. Then it start to drizzle a bit, and I'm not prepared. Considering I probably have seen the most, I head on. I was considering to see the old town, but that will be another time, when I'm not alone.

Out on the countryside again, I can't help noticing how much alike it is to the Danish. Real flat farmland with few big hedges. The National Trust owe a huge estate called Wimpole Estate and Garden. Here are a formal garden along with a lot of walled gardens, a collection of old farm animal breeds, greenhouses and endless parks. They have just received a shower when I arrival, and the sun is a bit slow picking up after that.
The formal garden might look best, seen from high above, in the grand house. The paths down to the walled gardens are lined with wild flowers, along with some huge bulbs in flower. Within the first square of the walled garden, all kind of flowering bushes and plants are found. The shape and colouration of the leaves add to the picture. A huge orchard is found outside, while other sorts are within their square.
The kitchen gardens are lined with flowering plants as well, and the glasshouses have more vegetable seedlings. Here are only four gardeners, but they have eighteen new volunteers every week, and many are real skilled.
Behind is a show-farm with a few of each of the old breeds. Here are several pigs, hens, cows and horses.
The inside of the house is as expected, although somehow lighter than usual for these huge houses. The bath room is special, kind of Roman inspires, although here are an old shower. The small church have some fantastic paintings of marble figures in niches. Must have been just as difficult to paint, as to carve.

They are about to close, and I try the address I got for a nearby camp-side - if 45 kilometres is nearby. He want 20 pound, and take it nice, when I say no. I make a few polite comments on his old restored American pickup, and pad his dog. "Only park, no electricity? Ten pound". I park right next to the toilet building. Can't see no reason to walk for miles on wet lawns.
I write the diary and eat my dinner. Then I figure I have a tea and cake coming, if I can find the local inn, and they have internet. Half a hour drive around in the nearby villages reveals no pub or inn at all. Then it must be Ely. It is rather big, and have an impressing cathedral.
The first pub have internet, but they can't get it to work. The next does not have internet. A restaurant say theirs is rubbish and the last they refer to, is packed with weekend drunks. All the cafes are closed, and I give up. I make my own tea and work with today's photos.

It is now time to start the diary about the eastern middle England.

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